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OTTISSIPPI Ch. 13, Part 2: Indian Culture And Lifeways cont.

By Cheryl Morgan

THE PROPHESIES

Seven powerful spiritual prophets were given prophesies for our people, The Anishinabek. Seven Fires, eras of time, were prophesied. The Seven Fires, were also Prophesied seven places we lived recorded on sacred scrolls and in oral history. There were seven nations, allied by seven prophesies.

THE MIGRATION – SEVEN FIRES PLACES WE STOPPED

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In 600 to 900 A.D., many Eastern North Atlantic peoples allied in a Great Confederacy. All the Algonquin-speaking tribes or nations were part of this Great Confederacy. Great Gatherings and debates took place, centered on the Seven Prophecies delivered to the people at that time.

We lived on the Eastern Seaboard, near the Great Salt Water. We migrated to the West, as our prophets told we were to follow the setting sun for our survival. There were seven stops on the Great Walk. It took many generations. The megis (cowry) shell cloud led them to seven stopping places on the way to the “place where food grows on water”. There were seven places we stopped at along the migration route.           

The seven places we stopped were:

The first stopping place, the St. Lawrence River near Montreal, Canada. We were to camp by a certain large body of water.

Here they would build a lodge, lighting the first Fire. At a Turtle, shaped Island. The Three Fires Confederacy formed here. As prophesied, there were many battles with our Enemies, the Nandawe – Snake People, the Iroquois.

The Turtle is prominent and very important to both the beginning and the end of the long migration. The Turtle Nation Anishinabe tradition tells the first stop, the turtle shape linked to purification of the Earth.

The second stopping place.

We continued moving slowly West to “The Great Falls”, Niagra Falls “Place of Thunder Waters”, called Gitchi Ga Be Gong. We continued to battle the Enemies, the Naadaawe – Iroquois.

The Anishinabek would camp by a large body of water, the path of the megis shell cloud and the spiritual strength of the people will become lost. A special boy will be born to lead the people on the Great Walk. They stayed for some time.

Then we moved to a third stopping place. The Turtle Nation Anishinabe traditional teaching says the Council of Three Fires, a unified alliance, moved to Round Lake (Lake St. Clair), near Detroit. 

We continued to the place where the water slices through the land like a knife. The Third Fire stopping place was the Detroit – the Strait – area, including Michigan and Ontario, Canada.

The third stopping place was where two great bodies of water are connected by a thin narrow river, a river deep and fast, a ribbon of water that slices through the land like a knife. We did not immediately cross the river but established a neutral territory in what is now Detroit, Michigan. Here the migration stalled for a long time. We found and congregated on a beautiful island, Anwaatin, or Minising (“Peaceful Place Island”), teeming with waterfowl, beaver, muskrat, and medicines in abundance. Bakyiwang Ziibi – “river flowing off” – or Walpole Island was the third stopping place.

The Anishinabe also established Aazhoogayaming – “The Crossing Waters Place”, at now, Sarnia, Ontario. Here the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers drain Lake Huron and Lake St. Clair into Lake Erie. The people lived in several villages along the Detroit and St. Clair River.

We were the Misi Zaagiing – “Those at the Great River Mouth”. Between Lake Erie and Lake Huron. This area became a stronghold, the Midewiwin Lodge and our People flourished.

Walpole Island – Bakyiwangziibi, meaning River flowing off to Sarnia – Aazhoogayaming, “The crossing waters place”, we were here a long time uniting with the Shawnee, Miami, Huron, and Ouendat – Wyandottes.

It was here that we established a stronghold of the Confederacy and the Midewiwin lodge. We became strong and grew and united with other nations, the Shawnee, Miami, and Huron. We realized the sense of being a Great Nation, our resolve and covenants were kept through the Lodge teachings. The third prophecy would begin, following the Stepping Stones to a great island.

We remembered the prophets’ words to “Find Stepping Stones to a Great Island”. We followed to the fourth stopping place, Mantoulin Island, east of Mackinac Island, Michigan. A Sacred Island, the Midewiwin Lodge grew in strength. It became the homeland of the Odaawaa – Ottawa people. The migration stopped here for a long time, then moved to Baawaating or Baawaatingamii – Sault Saint Marie.

The fifth Stopping place was Baawaatingamii, Baawaating – Sault Saint Marie, a land of plenty; there the people grew large. The river was later named St. Mary’s by the Black Robes. The land between Lake Superior and Lake Huron was called Baawaatingami.

The sixth stopping place was Spirit Island near Duluth, Minnesota, “where food grows on water” manomin, wild rice, a highly nutritious grain. The light-skinned came to the East. We divided into two groups, one north along Lake Superior and one along the south shore. On the southern route at the west end of Lake Superior, we saw a turtle-shaped island in the center of the beautiful bay. Nearby was found, wild rice in great quantity, the “food that grows on water”.

The seventh and final stopping place was at Madeline Island in Lake Superior, north of Lapointe, Wisconsin. At Spirit Mountain was a turtle-shaped island in the center of a beautiful bay, Madeline Island, La Pointe, Wisconsin. Here the Midewiwin grew into its fullest strength. Some of the people continued west to Minnesota, Dakota, Montana, Northern Ontario, Manitoba, and the Canadian Rockies.

After 500 years and seven generations, the migration was complete. This was during the Fourth Fire era of time. The prophets warned of the Fourth Fire time; the light skinned, by their hearts, it became clear that coexistence, peace and brotherhood were not to be. Soon Gitchi Mookmaan – Long Knives – brought death and disease, whole villages were dying by the thousands daily. 

 We were pushed out to the mainland by settlers and developers.

America was known as “Turtle Island”.

News of White explorers arrived in 1540 A.D. Many families of the people stayed to live along the migration way. They maintained and cared for the towns and lodges where migrants passed. 

For centuries, our people traveled widely throughout the Great Lakes, gathering at specific places to hunt, fish, gather plants, socialize in unhurried fashion.

Hundreds of our people gathered at Baawaating – Sault Ste. Marie – each summer to harvest the abundant whitefish in the rapids of the Saint Mary’s River. They would stay for several months. They built dome shaped homes of bent saplings covered with cattail mats and birch bark.

Thanksgiving feasts are given at the beginning of each harvest, sugar, berries, garden, etc.

Gifts were offered to people and spirits when requesting their assistance. The spirits share their power with men who in turn help one another with these spiritual gifts. Gift-giving built an ongoing shared kinship relationship between humans, animals, spirits. Gift-giving was a way to build alliances and shared resources between families, communities, and nations.

There was 100 years of war with other tribes, the Iroquois and Sioux increasing our Territory during the 1700s and 1800s. We separated into four divisions that are separate even now.

The Mississaugas or “River Men of Many Outlets” lived in a large area of Southeast Ontario and Michigan. The Mississaugas are ancestors of the Saginaw Chippewa, “The Lakes People”.

The occupants now in East Michigan and Ontario are part of the Southwest Chippewa-Ojibwe who came from Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Wisconsin and Minnesota, the “Saulteaux people”. The Northern Chippewa-Ojibwe are in Northern Ontario; they are the Cree people. The Western most Chippewa-Ojibwe are also Saulteaux of the Western Plains.

The Native population by the 1900s was reduced to one million. Disease, warfare, and alcohol took their toll. By 1950, there were only 0.9 million.

THE FIRES, ERAS OF TIME

In the beginning, seven nations were allied by the Seven Prophesies, later our people were known as the Three Fires.

The Seven Great Fires are seven great historical eras. Prophesized by seven powerful prophets, there were seven periods of time called “Fires”. There were Seven Fires or stopping places where we lived. These events were recorded on sacred scrolls and in oral history maintained by the Mide Lodge – Holy Men.

A light-skinned race of people would arrive over the Great Salt Water. Great changes were described, threatening our lifeways. Our elders and leaders urged us to move West or be destroyed. We were to migrate West where food grows on water.

In the time of the Third Fire, great hope and anticipation will arrive. The megis shell cloud will lead the Anishinabek to their new home to the place where food grows on water.

THE FOURTH FIRE TIME ERA

The prophets warned of the Fourth Fire time: the words of the Prophet “By their hearts, shall you know them”. The Light Skin Hearts became known as “Gitchi – Mookmaan” – Big Knives – who brought death and diseases that destroyed thousands daily. Our medicines and healing ceremonies were ineffective against the new scourge.

The Turtle Nation Anishinabe traditional Fourth Fire told of the light-skin race coming over the Great Salt Water: The faces of the light-skin people will tell the future. If the face of brotherhood, a time of wonderful changes for generations to come. They will bring new knowledge and articles that can be joined with the knowledge of this country. In this way, two nations will join to make a mighty nation. Their hearts may be filled with greed for the riches of this land. If they are indeed your brother, let them show it. You shall know the face is one of death if the rivers run with poison and fish become unfit to eat.

THE FIFTH FIRE ERA

The Fifth Fire Time, was a time of intertribal warfare for control of the land, fur, and waterways. The prophets foretold of a difficult choice and a great struggle with the choice. We suffered increasing hardships, social and cultural distress, from our choices.

It was predicted in the Fifth Fire time that a difficult choice would come to keep our ancestral teachings and traditions or leave the old way for the European ways. 

We embraced the French and the metal tools making our lives easier. They also brought guns, whiskey, missionaries, land thieves, and corruption, during the time of the next three Fires.

The fifth prophet foresaw a world of increasing difficulty. Intertribal warfare took place for control of the land swarming with fur-bearing animals, the waterways, lakes, and rivers (highways).

The Turtle Nation Anishinabe traditional Fifth Fire time told of great struggle. Come one who hold a promise of great joy and salvation. False promises nearly destroy the people. All those who accept this promise will cause the near destruction of the people.

THE SIXTH FIRE ERA

The sixth prophet predicted social and cultural turmoil. Most Anishinabek will accept the promises that were made in the time of the Fifth Fire. Turning their backs on the old ways and discouraging their children from listening to the elders’ teachings, the language, and the traditions. The false faces brought greed and harm to the earth, the rivers run with poison and the fish are unfit to eat. Suffering was the result of our decision to embrace Gitchi Mookmaan ways, values, laws, and religion. Many left the traditional teaching of the elders. Elders would lose their reason for living, a sickness, would come over the people. Our great leaders, Pontiac and Tecumseh, warned of the devastation and sickness of alcohol, disillusionment, loss of language and identity. Our Good Medicine, teachings, to heal our people were left behind.

Some good leaders hid the sacred bundles and scrolls, holding the teachings in memory and shared the teachings, waiting for the Seventh Prophecy. The people are reconnecting with our God, honoring cultural and spiritual lifeways.

The Turtle Nation Anishinabe traditional Sixth Fire time told they would take children away from the old teachings of the elders. Grandson and granddaughter would turn against the elders, elders lose reason for living and their purpose in life. New sickness, the balance of many disturbed. Cup of Life, a Cup of Grief.

THE SEVENTH FIRE ERA

Though Native religion was forbidden by laws and schools, the language and ceremonies continued in secret. This is the time of the beginning of the Seventh Fire. The time is now come to be reborn, a time of renewal and blessing. The prophets told of hope reborn and a future filled with blessings and promise. The Last Great Fire is a time when new people will emerge and the Anishinabe will be reborn (Wm. W. Warren).

The Turtle Nation Anishinabe traditional Seventh Fire told, new people emerge, retrace their steps, find what was left by the trail, rekindle the old ways. Return to the elders and seeking knowledge, ask them to guide them on their journey. Many will have fallen asleep, awaken with nothing to offer. Water drum will again sound its voice, Rebirth of the Anishinabe Nation and rekindling of Old Flames. The Sacred Fire will again be lit.

In the Seventh Fire, all people must choose between two paths – Destruction or Compassion. It will light the Eighth and Final Fire, the light-skin race given the choice between two roads.

The Eighth Fire is an eternal fire of peace, love, brotherhood, and sisterhood. The wrong choice of the roads then the destruction which they brought with them in coming to this country, will come back at them and cause much suffering and death to all the Earth’s people.

When the world has been befouled and the waters turned bitter by disrespect, human beings will have two options to choose from: Materialism or Spirituality. If they choose spirituality, they will survive, but if they choose materialism, it will be the end of it. Turn from materialism, choose path of respect all colors and faiths, for all these things and people, wisdom and spirituality. Environmental and social catastrophe can be avoided and an era of Spiritual Illumination will unfold with peace and respect and Love for one another. The elders say major Earth changes are due to occur soon.

MIDEWIWIN OR GRAND MEDICINE SOCIETY

The Midewiwin is a religious society, for the purpose, of curing the sick and extending life. Members must pay to enter the different levels of the society. Each level has different types and amounts of medical and spiritual knowledge. Sickness was thought to be of evil spirits, so medical practice was associated with the supernatural.

Leadership was not hereditary; it was chosen at each gathering.

The history of the Anishinabe was preserved and recited during Midewiwin ceremonies: The Creation, the Great Flood, the Spiritual Migration of the Aanishinibek, behavior ethics. The Mide taught its members herbal knowledge for a price, honored the Manitos (or Manitous, the spirits and essence of power, the most powerful being the Four Winds) and Kitchi Manito in order to restore health and emphasize ethical behavior.

Membership was limited. Initiates underwent long periods of study in medicines, history, spiritual knowledge, and behavioral ethics. Every person of the Mide, from the first to eighth degrees, were obliged to be present at every meeting. They were the repositories of this knowledge for their communities.

It was the responsibility of everyone to look after the needs of orphans and widows and the overall community.

As a young person, each Native American receives a private name, a sacred name, for prayer; this is how the Spirit knows him. The young person learned by their dreams to live moral lives, to be industrious and moderate in tobacco use. 

For the Anishinabe, the spiritual world is not separated from the physical world and the physical world is not separated from the spiritual world. All things were treated as being alive, having a spirit just like people. They were brothers and sisters and were respected (Jenness, 1954). All political, spiritual, economic, and social life depended on and incorporated the spirits.

The Jusikid had higher occult knowledge, with access to the spirits. The Shaking Tent Ceremony answered peoples’ questions.

These were the Faker Medicine Men who practiced witchcraft. These persons obtained their knowledge of incantations to produce spells, on other people and also knowledge of herbs to produce poison from contact with these evil spirits in their fasts, and only people that came under the sway of witchcraft were very superstitious people. In Alarm and I believe that from these people came the origin of hair-raising, haunted stories. Some such stories are entertaining and were used to entertain the Indians at their tea meetings and feasts (Chief, Nicholas Plain, 1950, “History of the Chippewa of Sarnia”).

The Moral Laws in every phase of life were rigidly adhered to. The code of Laws of which there are many. Especially laws, similar to uncleanness of issues and their cleansing found in the Bible (Nicholas Plain, Chief Sarnia Reserve, 1950).

CREATION STORY – NANABOZHO

Nanabozho is the great cultural hero of the Ojibwe Indians. There are many stories about him for entertainment. He was a man of miraculous birth. He was often humorous. He is the patron saint of the Algonquins. In the story, he was on a raft of logs floating on the vast sea of water in company with all kinds of animals and fowl of the air. He could talk to all these creatures. His mission was to devise ways and means to solve their problems. Their need was to devise ways and means to secure land.

Nanabozho chose the Otter – Ojeeg – to dive down to the bottom of the waters to bring up a quantity of earth. Ojeeg jumped off the raft and dove down to the bottom and became exhausted. Without reaching the bottom, after a while the body of Ojeeg surfaced. Nanabozho could find no trace of earth on his paws.

Ahmik – Beaver – volunteered to go down and get the earth. Nanabozho accepted his offer and Amnik, like Ojeeg, became exhausted, and his body came floating to the surface of the waters. Nanabozho examined its paws and, finding no trace of earth on them, he called the creatures to get themselves to him and asked them, if any among them could swim and dive better than Ojeeg and Ahmik, to present themselves to him.

Whazhugk, the Muskrat, steps out to volunteer. Nanabozho looked at the tiny creature and says to him, “How can you, being so small, have the courage to say that you can do what the swiftest of swimmers, Ojeeg, and the strongest of swimmers, Ahmik, could not do? But nevertheless, I will give you my permission to go ahead and dive down and get the earth.” So Whazhugk dove down and down, till he was just about exhausted. He reached the bottom and with his paws he scratched the earth and passed out like Ojeeg and Ahmik before him. When his body floated to the surface, Nanabozho examined his paws and, greatly rejoicing, greeted this discovery of a little bit of Earth upon his little paws. Nanabozho uttered his incantations, causing this little bit of earth to grow and grow till it became a vast country – North America (Nicholas Plain, 1950).

Nanabozho was the creator of the earth, man, and the animals. It was he who had invented nets and taught the Anishinabe how to catch fish. It was he who was the founder of Midewiwin who taught the men medical knowledge. The inventor of hieroglyphs (writing pictures).

Tobacco is cast on the water to ask for a good catch of fish. Offerings were made as presents to the spirits, asking for assistance to catch fish. If nothing was received, the Indians became angry with the spirit who had received a gift and given nothing in return. The Indian believed in many spirits, some good and some evil.

In Peter Jones’ book on Ojibwe history, he tells the same story, but each animal has the breath of life blew back into them. And the Muskrat, is blessed with never becoming extinct.

The Indians also have a Jonah story. The great fish would follow and swallow up people, with their canoe and all. Nanabozho decided to be swallowed up, and he was. While he then worked with his weapons against the fish, which ran to the shore and died. Nanabozho was happy to save many people from the Great Monster (Andrew Blackbird).

We’re all connected and responsible for each other, to enrich all people. Red, Yellow, Black, White – people of all colors (Ziibiwing).

Two weeks from today, Cheryl will dive into the third part of chapter thirteen, including fairies and Indian prayer.

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The Detroit News Tribune, 1896, Dixon, Mother Rodd

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The Smithsonian, 2014, Amanda Foreman, The Birth of American Freedom and the Founding of the Union

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This book came about after a visit to the library where I could not find local Indian History. I grew up in the St. Clair and Black River area of Michigan, fishing on all the area waters with my father and brothers. I loved books, libraries, horses and puzzles; I was not a tech person. I love to cook, garden, travel, and camp. I was determined to find and share the truth. This has been a difficult journey in every way. I give you, the reader, the truth and blessings I also reaped. Cheryl Morgan

Cheryl Morgan lives near Port Huron, Michigan with her husband Tom and dog Fred.

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